Signs and symptoms of gallbladder cancer include abdominal pain and bloating, nausea, fever and itchiness, according to Mayo Clinic. People have poor appetites and sometimes unintentionally lose weight. Signs of jaundice appear, including yellowing of the skin and of the white portions of the eyes.
Though gallbladder cancer is not common, it most often occurs in people who have had gallstones, reports Mayo Clinic. A history of chronic gallbladder infections, gallbladder cysts and porcelain gallbladder also put people at greater risk. Women are more likely to develop this cancer, as are people who are obese. The possibility of developing the disease increases with age.
Physicians use tests and medical imaging to diagnose gallbladder cancer. Lab tests check for a high level of bilirubin in the blood, which indicates a problem in the gallbladder, bile ducts or liver, states the American Cancer Society. Abnormal levels of other substances, such as albumin and alkaline phosphatase, also suggest disease in these organs. Ultrasound images, CT scans or MRI scans are helpful when searching for cancer.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are typical treatments for gallbladder cancer, says the National Cancer Institute. The approach depends, in part, on how far the cancer has progressed. During surgery, lymph nodes and surrounding tissue are sometimes removed along with the gallbladder. Chemotherapy sends drugs throughout a person's system or places them directly into the diseased organ. This either kills cells or prevents them from reproducing.
Radiation therapy has two options, NCI explains. In one, an external machine directs radiation. Internal radiation therapy positions needles, seeds, wires or catheters inside the body near the tumor to transmit a radioactive substance.